But do you want Him to come again? You have no choice, of course. But do you want Him to come again? Are you eager to hear the sound of the trumpet, to see the glory of His righteousness? Or does the thought give you now already a dread and fear? Or perhaps you think that this coming again is too far away; that it ought not really to concern us here today nor affect our daily life and walk. Some have said that. They have suggested that Christ is not coming again soon. You point them to Scripture where the Word of God speaks of “the last hour”; where the Word of God declares, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand”; where the Word of God mentions “the last times” (I John 3:2). “Oh,” states the objector, “the apostles were mistaken. They said it was the ‘last hour’ 2,000 years ago. They were deceived. And we today have no reason to believe that He is coming again soon. Perhaps thousands of years in the future, but not soon.” Yet the Word of God was not mistaken when it speaks of “the last hour,” or, “it is the last time.” That Word does not measure the last time by the standards which man has devised. But the Word of God measures time on the “time-clock” of God. According to that “time clock,” there are different hours which strike—one after the other. There was a moment of creation, the hour of the fall, the hour of the flood, the hour of the calling of Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees and the establishment of Israel in the land of Canaan. There was the hour of the fulness of time when the Son enters into our flesh to suffer and die; to rise again and ascend gloriously to the right hand of our God. The next hour, which is also the last one, is His return on the clouds of heaven.
But how do we know that that next hour will not stretch out yet another thousand years? How do we know? I would suggest, if you want to know, you read Matthew 24. There you find emphasized that the day and the hour of Christ’s return knoweth no man. But the fact remains that unmistakable signs are presented there as well as elsewhere in Scripture. There can be no mistake when the Christian maintains that He is coming again soon. I would review some of those signs with you. One of them, emphasized in Matthew 24 and in Revelation 6:1, 2, is the preaching of the gospel to all nations. Before Christ comes again, the gospel must go forth unto all nations. In Revelation 6, the white horse, representing the preaching of the Word, is sent forth to cover the earth. When it has accomplished God’s purpose and the Word of God has gone forward to all nations where God is pleased to send it, when God’s people have been gathered from the four comers of the earth, then shall the end come. Then our Lord returns on the clouds of glory. This is the principal sign of the end. All other signs of Christ’s return have their place, but they must all serve the purpose of the preaching of the Word and the gathering of the saints until the body of Christ is complete.
What are the other signs of Christ’s return? A daily newspaper will remind you of the fulfillment of the signs of His return. May I remind you of what you have been reading? Matthew 24 speaks of signs in all of creation. You have recently read of terrible earthquakes in different places. You have read of hundreds and thousands of people killed by these earthquakes. Jesus says, “That is one of the signs of My coming again.” Or you read of pestilence. Pestilence oftentimes accompanies such natural disasters as earthquakes. That is a sign of Christ’s return. Hurricanes have struck—some labeled the most disastrous in history. These are signs of His coming again.
Or Christ speaks of another class of signs involving the actions of man himself. You read daily of men fighting one with another, destroying property, killing, laying waste the land. You perhaps give it little thought—but every time you read of wars, you have before you the clear sign of the nearness of Christ’s return. Or you read of crime which increases by leaps and bounds every year. You read of the influence of drugs. You read of such moral decay in our society that sometimes even the world itself deplores that which takes place. And every time you read these things, you can say, “My Lord is coming again soon. This is His reminder to me.”
Again, there is the passage of Revelation 13 presenting the two beasts, one of which arises from the sea and the other from the land. The one beast represents the political power of a world united together—the time when the wound of the beast is healed; the second beast represents the social, economic, religious powers of this world combined together to force all men to bow down and worship the image of the beast. This prophecy is being fulfilled today. You know how man through means of modern communication seeks to unite nations, causing all men to act, live, and desire alike. You hear of denominations of churches seeking to unite, proposing to call themselves: Churches of Christ Uniting. It all reminds one of the Word of God which. states, “This all must take place, and then cometh the end.”
There is also the sign of apostasy. You see it on every hand. Churches, which at one time held fast to the infallible Word of God, now turn their backs on it and deny it. Many churches now deny its infallibility on various points: the creation account; the record of miracles, even the atonement. Churches deny its infallibility by denying the Trinity, or the resurrection from the dead, or the return of Christ on the clouds of heaven. Instead of holding fast to the Word of God, there is a holding to the word of man. Instead of maintaining what the Word of God says of authority, churches of our day march in protest and advocate rebellion in order to “serve mankind.” This sign of apostasy, of separation from the truths of God’s Word, is a reminder to you and me that the end is at hand.
But perhaps you say that these things have always occurred in the history of the world. To a certain extent, that is true. One who reads history, both the history in Scripture and also secular history, notes immediately that there were always wars. Why then should wars today be a special sign of the end? One reads history, and finds that there were always earthquakes—some far more devastating than those of our day. Why should earthquakes today be a special reminder that our Lord’s coming is near? Or there is the sign of apostasy. Why, one looks back in the history of the church, and he finds that there was repeated need of reform. There were denials of the divinity of Christ at the very beginning of the New Testament age. There were denials of the Trinity in past ages. There were denials of the atonement in the past. Why should the apostasy of our day be considered as something unique? Even John in his epistle states that there were many antichrists in his day. Why then should the signs we see remind us of the soon return of our Lord?
In the first place, the signs which we see and hear, come from every portion of this globe. That has never happened before. In the days of Luther or Calvin, these men saw signs of the end. In that day some even suggested the possibility that the pope was the antichrist. But the fact was that their observance of the signs of the end was limited to those signs seen in their immediate area. Today, by means of modern communications, there is brought to the attention of the church (and to all men) signs which take place on every point of this earth. Hardly any sign can take place anywhere today, but that you can read of it tonight in your daily newspaper.
Secondly, there has never been a time in the history of the world when so obviously Revelation 13 is being fulfilled. Always in the past, nations were at each other’s throats. There is still much of this today. But today, more than ever before, one sees how that man strives after a unity of mankind. There is also the attempt to unite churches, a unity based not on common confession or doctrine, but upon a desire to become one.
And today especially, these signs are converging towards a climax; they are occurring all at the same time. Yes indeed, in the past there were signs of war; at another time here were signs of pestilence or earthquake; and at another time perhaps there was much apostasy. Now all of these signs are evident at the same time.
Anyone with any degree of spiritual discernment at all must recognize that the end is near. I can not and: may not forecast how many days, weeks, or years may yet be. But I do emphasize to you that the coming of Christ is soon; not tomorrow (for the antichrist has not come yet), but it will be soon.
What does this mean for you as children of God? The Word of God always emphasizes in connection with all of the signs: “Watch!” There is evidence of the opposite within the church. There is evidence that some misunderstand the significance of Christ’s return. There is the fact that some will ignore the return of Christ; these persist in enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season. Are you of those who try to ignore the truth that Christ is coming again soon? Do you set your heart rather on ease, the comfort and pleasures that this world has to offer? Or do you have a distorted idea of the return of Christ and of the consequent calling of the church? Many churches today are placing more and more emphasis upon a social gospel. Questions are asked concerning “involvement.” Perhaps you have heard some of them: “How many marches have you joined lately as churches of Jesus Christ? How involved have you become with the social problems of this world? What have you done to help the poor in the ghetto areas? What have you done to help them get better instruction, higher wages—to bring them into the mainstream of American society? What have you done to protest Nixon’s slowing down of integration? What have you done to protest the war in Vietnam? How have you assisted those who want to avoid war and the draft?” These are questions that many churches of our day want answered. There are many engaged in all of these activities—being convinced evidently that in doing this, they are serving God and His kingdom.
But they are wrong. The only way any man can ever be changed, really changed, is through regeneration. You might build the unregenerated man a beautiful home. You can guarantee him a high annual wage. You can provide for him a social security. You can free him from the demands of fighting wars. You can give him beautiful schools. But you have not removed the basic problem. The problems today are not merely social injustices. It is not merely the problem of wars. The problem is a wicked, perverse heart. When man’s heart is perverse, whether he lives in ghetto areas or in East Grand Rapids, he is dead in sin. He rebels against God’s law, and refuses to recognize God’s authority or power over him. Only regeneration can change him.
Therefore we must oppose such positions as expressed by the World Council of Churches at its meeting in Uppsala, Sweden in 1968. Among other things, the W.C.C. said, “We affirm that young people are right to challenge authority which is not constantly earned. Young people have a right as well as old to participate in decisions in schools and universities, as well as in business and political life, and to have their say in any structure affecting them. Our aim is reconciliation which means directing conflicts towards constructive ends.” But the Word of God declares inRomans 13 that power and authority are instituted by God; and whosoever rebels against authority, rebels against God. And though churches in our day insist that we must become involved in all sorts of social activities such as removing injustices between races, the Word of God is not concerned with these problems as such. The Word of God never dealt with the problem of slavery in the days of Paul, except to tell the slaves to be obedient to their masters. They must be good slaves. It does not deal with the problem of poverty except to tell the churches of Jesus Christ to show the mercies of our Lord in helping one another. We are pilgrims and strangers here. We are not going to change this world and form it into some sort of a utopia. And no one will. We, as pilgrims, are to be faithful. Pilgrims must be diligent. Pilgrims must beware lest they fall into the sins of the world about them. But pilgrims understand always that they are indeed strangers. Their kingdom is not on this earth. Their kingdom is coming when our Lord returns on the clouds of glory.
On the other hand, when we think of the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, we must beware lethargy, carelessness, indifference. I want to emphasize that, because I see much of this in us. It is almost as if we say, after hearing of Christ’s soon return, “So what?” We confess the truths of God’s Word. We acknowledge that our Lord Jesus Christ is coming again soon. But, so what? We continue our daily activities as if this soon return makes no difference in what we do and say. Therefore, the Word of God says to us, “Watch!”
Do you know what it means to watch? That does not suggest idleness. The idea of watching here is not similar to the “sidewalk supervisor” watching the construction of a building. That man is idle. He is doing nothing. But one who watches spiritually is one who is deeply active and greatly concerned. I would suggest first of all that watching involves a proper knowledge of God’s Word. No one can watch unless he has a guide, unless his eyes are open to see and understand. No one can watch by his own cleverness or wisdom, but the infallible Word of God is given to him to direct him in watching. You must know that Word. Know its doctrines. Know what Scripture says about the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ. Know what this world really is, and what is going to happen to it when Christ returns. Be sure you know that thoroughly. In the second place, watching means that you observe around you the very things about which the Word of God speaks. You must see the wickedness of this world concerning which the Bible tells us. You must see the signs about us. Watch for those. And, of course, in this watching, look up. Your deliverance is at hand. Look for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Desire it. That is watching.
You who watch must be very diligent in your daily life and walk. If you are watching faithfully, you do not come to society unprepared. If you are watching faithfully, you do not come to church on Sunday with little concern about what is preached. You search God’s Word faithfully.
Then, be spiritually active. Be active in instructing covenant seed. Tell them again and again what God tells us in the Word. Do not leave the instruction of your children to the world. Are we not tempted often to shove our children in front of the television set and tell them to sit and watch? They get instruction there—but of the wrong sort. Rather, you take your children on your knees, and you remind them of the nearness of the end of time. Tell them what they must look for; warn them of all the evils that surround us which seem about to engulf the church of Christ. And you yourselves hold fast to the truth. Do not neglect that. Do not be indifferent with respect to it. Do not ever say, “My church—right or wrong.” But hold fast to the truth regardless of consequences. Maintain that truth whether you are imprisoned because of it, or whether you are put to death because of it. And pray. Pray for that grace, wisdom, and strength to endure to the end. Christ promised it to us. Christ Himself has urged us to pray without ceasing. Pray particularly because of the night in which we live. Pray for His quick return. Pray that in sincerity. Every night and every morning, pray, “Even so come, Lord Jesus, quickly.”
October 22, 1844 came and went. Christ did not then return. But I do believe that not many more days shall go by; not many more years—but that Christ is coming again. And you, Church of Jesus Christ, are called to live as those who want Him to come again.
Do you so pray, “Even so come, Lord Jesus?”